Different people divide the strata in K-12 society differently. Some people say that there is “the popular” and “the unpopular”. I personally divide people into three categories: the popular, the not popular, and the unpopular. The first group is self-explanatory, the second group consisting of people that simply lack popularity, and the third group consisting of people that are aggressively disregarded. I’ve actually shifted between all three of these groups over the course of my K-12 experience.

-{West Oak Elementary}-

When I started out, I was actually in a relatively good social position. I was friends with a neighbor who was a bit of a bully but kept the other bullies at bay for me. My father was known for being a little league coach. My mother was actively involved in PTA and the like and so a lot of people had parents that knew my parents. And I played sports so a lot of kids knew me from that.

It was, alas, not to last. The biggest problem was that I started gaining weight in about the second grade. It was the biggest problem, though oddly it didn’t actually start causing me problems until the others started to surface. The second issue, related to the first, was that I started to sweat a lot. Given that I don’t have a good sense of smell, I didn’t fully appreciate the need to shower and better groom myself.

The third and fourth are also related. I became friends with Clint, who was a social liability. Clint also had an odor problem and was one of the scrawniest kids you ever saw. He also had ADHD (like the serious kind where you jump out of your chair and for no reason start running around the classroom). So there was a little bit of tarnish-by-association involved. But as important as that was that he and I got along so well that we often didn’t need anybody else. So while the other kids were playing kickball or whatever, he and I were off in our own corner doing our own thing. That sort of self-segregation between you and everyone else (except an unpopular cohort) is a pretty poor strategy.

I was really rather oblivious to the whole need to build and maintain relationships. People had always been there and I had my friends and it was never a problem. Until of course it would become one. When I needed people to have my back and realized that there were none there because I hadn’t made the time and effort to try to include myself. This would become a persistent problem, but it was definitely one that started at West Oak Elementary.

I was becoming vaguely aware of it being a problem. By the fifth grade I had noticed some problems occurring and started tut-tutting Clint about getting too animated. “Think of the casual observer,” I’d say. In other words, don’t do anything that someone who happened to be looking in your direction would find inexplicably weird or mock-worthy. Unfortunately, I never took it to the next step which is to get to know people and to maintain those relationships.

In addition to my connections and my parents’ standing in the community, it was also a lot easier where there were fewer students. To know me is, if not to like me, then to at least think that I am an okay guy. In person I am remarkably inoffensive. All of this was enough to carry me through the fifth grade remaining mostly in tact. I wasn’t popular anymore, but I wasn’t unpopular. I wasn’t generally targeted. That would all change when I got to junior high.

-{To Be Continued}-

Category: Ghostland, School

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8 Responses to My History in Popularity: West Oak Elementary

  1. Linus says:

    Man, you make it sound like a tactical error of mine to make friends with you and Clint in 5th grade.

    You know, from a cold tactical standpoint, maybe you’re right.

  2. logtar says:

    I cannot wait to continue reading. Thanks for sharing.

  3. ? says:

    I was that scrawny ADHD kid. Thanks for being my friend.

  4. trumwill says:

    Linus, The friends don’t hurt all that much unless you’re already vulnerable on other fronts. If I hadn’t had the other weaknesses that I did, it wouldn’t have proven so detrimental. But yeah, we probably were dragging you down at least a little bit.

    Phi, I was friends with a fair number of scrawny kids. So I’m sure we would have been buds.

  5. Sheila Tone says:

    You actually said, “Think of the casual observer,” in fifth grade?

  6. Sheila Tone says:

    That’s a good point about the problem with having one person you get along with so well, you don’t work to fit in with others. That may have been part of my problem in grade school — I had a best friend in another school. We’d been friends since I was born, basically. No other friendship I had was nearly as rewarding or entertaining as my friendship with her. Not that I didn’t make friends from time to time, but I never felt the need to cultivate them or develop a “best friend” at my school.

    So around 6th grade or so, when the two-by-two cliques started forming, I was at a serious disadvantage because I didn’t have a girlfriend. That’s really how it was, like having a romantic relationship was later on. Everything broke down to same-sex couples. If you didn’t have a girlfriend partner, you couldn’t smoothly join the double- or triple-date that was a female clique. You’d always be the odd one out. At best, it lowered your status. At worst, it invited harassment. From 6th to 8th grade, I was in three cliques where I was the third wheel, and it never lasted, and I was always the disadvantaged and unhappy one.

  7. trumwill says:

    Yeah, another thing working against me: I talked complicated.

    I don’t know where I picked up that phrase, but I think at some point I sounded out its meaning and it stuck.

  8. trumwill says:

    I was actually in the awkward position of already having a best friend when Clint showed up. The problem was that my best friend was in a different grade than I was because I flunked kindergarten. But Clint and I were two peas in a pod.

    And as long as we were together, there never was a problem. We didn’t have a whole lot of trouble making friends and having third and forth people. Of course, how much we actually liked the other person actually varied. But the problem was that in junior high and high school, we rarely had the same lunch or any of the same classes. So I really needed to make other friends and had difficulty doing so.

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